Da Vinci’s Demons episode 6 review: The Devil

Da Vinci's Demons introduces a worthy opponent for Leonardo this week, and builds towards its second season. Here's Ron's review...

This review contains spoilers.

1.6 The Devil

One of the reasons why this episode worked better than it had any right to is the work of Paul Rhys as Vlad Tepes, not-so-deftly introduced here as Dracula among his many other titles and honours, since they assume rightly that most people won’t connect Vlad the Impaler to Dracula. However, awkward introduction aside, the character of Dracula actually works really well. Leonardo’s adventure in Wallachia is actually pretty entertaining. The sets are creepy, moody, and appropriately dark, and Rhys plays a great crazy person. (Fun fact, Paul Rhys also played Leonardo Da Vinci on an episode of The Borgias, which takes place shortly after the time frame of Da Vinci’s Demons.) The combination of the character’s interesting scar makeup and the actor’s apparent choice to never make his eyes focus on anything in one scene really help to establish that this character is without a doubt insane and possibly, as we see from his later actions, a monster in more than one way. 

Last week’s re-imagining of Da Vinci’s Demons as a courtroom drama really helped liven up the show, and this week’s take on horror movies is no exception. Vlad Dracula is basically Jigsaw from Saw without any actual big lesson behind his torture. Vlad is simply great at making people suffer, from the impaled bodies with their turbans nailed to their heads, to releasing dogs on people, to the ingenious device in which the Sons of Mithras’ cartographer is captured. In a show that has been actively trying to be nasty with its depictions of violence, Vlad’s hamster ball of death is the most successful attempt at this. It’s not that it’s overly gory, but it looks like it’s awful without being splattery. Director Paul Wilmshurst manages to capture a very specific tone of weird, vaguely supernatural dread thanks to his filming choices on the Romania set without sacrificing some of the uncomfortable bonding scenes between Lorenzo and his mercenary friend. 

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Getting Leonardo out of Florence definitely helped his storyline, but getting Lorenzo out of Florence helped make him more entertaining, too. I think that getting a little distance from the day-to-day intrigues of the Florentines helped to create a sense of adventure that you don’t really get from being bogged down in politics. I’m not terribly interested in the Pazzis, but I like Leonardo facing threats that he can’t outwit (the Pope, Riario, and in this case Dracula himself). To that end, I’m getting more interested in the search for the Book of Leaves, but honestly, at this point in the season, the show needs to be wrapping up some of its stories, rather than building more stuff in about alliances and whatnot. Maybe they’re adding stuff for the already-ordered second season?

Either way, the show has a lot of stuff going on and while the side trips to Wallachia are entertaining (and they managed to progress some of the Rome stuff without Leonardo, which is a double bonus from writers Brian Nelson and Marco Ramirez). It’s easy to forget that there are a lot of interesting people in the world during this time period, and plenty of them are within reasonable travelling distance from Florence, so why not have Leonardo’s vast conspiracy covering a lot of ground and why not match the man up with more people worthy of his intellect and skill, like the Satanic monster Vlad Tepes? 

The bigger this conspiracy gets, the more it will benefit from having some higher-powered adversaries for Leonardo to butt heads with. Sherlock Holmes has Moriarty, Leonardo needs someone in direct confrontation with him, and while Pope Sixtus has proven himself to be devious and murderous thanks to his bathtub near-drowning this week, we also don’t see a lot of him, just his agents. However, Rome aside, they seem to be more interested in laying the groundwork for a future adventure to the New World (Ferdinand and Isabella, the Cartographer’s map of South America, etc.) than actually having a lot of adventure in Rome. 

Historically, I know that the show is building toward some big things with Rome, Florence, and the dueling families (and I have no doubt that Da Vinci’s Demons will be bringing that into their historical fiction realm). I’m just not sure how soon the show will be bringing that stuff into their world, given how slowly the show’s current stories are progressing. Maybe it’ll be an interesting third season wrinkle?

US Correspondent Ron Hogan wonders what’s around the corner next for Da Vinci and friends. Will they meet Frankenstein’s monster? Maybe a wolf man? Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.

Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, The Tower, here.

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